7 Best Charcoal Grills for Summer Grilling Season
No matter your level of grill experience, budget or the size of your outdoor space, we’ve found the perfect top-rated charcoal grills for summer eats, entertaining and adventures.
If summer had a smell, it would be charcoal. It’s that open-your-back-door-and-know-your-neighbor-is-grilling-burgers smell. Charcoal means good things are about to happen, from gathering with family to celebrating holidays to staying outside as long as possible. The best part about charcoal grills is that it’s not fancy, fussy or expensive compared gas grills. If you’re a grilling newbie, a classic charcoal kettle is a perfect grill to start with, but just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s basic. Many grill masters around the world still opt for charcoal. Today’s charcoal grills come with some seriously cool features, from digital alerts to combo smokers. If you’re ready to kick off summer, AKA grilling season, we’ve rounded up the best charcoal grills you can order online for every budget and cooking style. Take a look at these top-rated buys and see which charcoal grill is right for you.
Charcoal Grills 101
The most common question grilling newbies have when shopping for a grill is gas or charcoal? The difference really comes down to two things: budget and convenience. Charcoal grills are way more affordable than gas grills, cart-style grills that are powered by natural gas or a propane tank. However, gas grills heat up quickly and require less maintenance and cleanup. Charcoal grills rely on briquettes, those bags of lumps of coal. The briquettes require more time heating up than a grill connected to your home’s natural gas supply. And charcoal grills must be cleaned out after grilling. Unlike a gas grill, all that fuel turns into messy ash once burned. Charcoal grilling is also much more practical for camping and vacationing as it’s much easier to pack a portable charcoal grill and a small bag of briquettes than lugging around or renting a propane tank.
When shopping for a charcoal grill, the first thing to consider is size. If you’re cooking for a big crew often, you might want a charcoal grill that’s around 30 inches. However, if most of your grilling is for impromptu date nights on the patio or a couple of burgers for the Fourth of July, you likely only need an 18- or 20-inch grill. The most popular style is a charcoal kettle on a tripod stand, made famous by Weber. But in the last decade, egg-shaped, ceramic charcoal grills have exploded in the market. There are also a handful of cart-style charcoal grills if you like the aesthetic of a gas grill, but you’re on a charcoal budget.
Best Overall Charcoal Grill
You can't talk about charcoal grills without mentioning Weber. The brand is responsible for the iconic kettle/tripod design that's serviced backyard cookouts for decades. Today, the Weber Original continues to out-rank other styles. Just take a look at the nearly 2,000 reviews on Walmart or nearly 7,000 five-star reviews on Amazon. People love this grill. You can score the classic black for $175 on Walmart and the new olive green color for the same price on Amazon.
Best Budget Charcoal Grill
If $175 is still a little too high, the slightly smaller 18-inch Weber is just as reliable, well-made and top-rated. It's just more compact (which makes it great for condos or small patios) and it's just $99 on both Walmart and Amazon.
Best Cart-Style Charcoal Grill
However, if you don't like the kettle design, don't worry. More brands are releasing cart-style charcoal grills that look just like a gas grill. Many, like this Nexgrill, even feature a side shelf like a gas grill for prep work. This matte-black model totally looks like a gourmet gas grill but without a bulky propane tank or the steep price tag. It's only $119 + free shipping at The Home Depot.
Best Large Charcoal Grill
If you're cooking for a crowd and need more grill space, this KitchenAid 810 is your best bet. Yes, KitchenAid makes grills! This unit features two side shelves for meal prep and plating, plus heavy-duty cast iron cooking grates that are porcelain-coated so pre-seasoning isn't required. It comes with a grill cover to help protect it against the elements outside. Shoppers loved this grill on The Home Depot so much that it sold out, but we spotted it online at Target for under $270.
Best Splurge-Worthy Charcoal Grill
For the seasoned grillers who live for summer cookouts, it might be time to upgrade your happy place to a charcoal grill with bells and whistles. Say hello to the Masterbuilt Gravity Series 560 Charcoal Grill. This baby has it all, from WiFi or Bluetooth-enabled controls to a smoker. Yep, you can grill and smoke at the same time with this grill, making it perfect for entertaining and preparing multiple dishes. This grill also answers the question many gas grill fans ask: How do you control the temperature? Charcoal takes more time to heat and isn't as consistent as gas, but the Masterbuilt Gravity features a digital fan for ultimate temperature regulation.
Best Kamado-Style Charcoal Grill
You might not know the name of these egg-shaped grills, but you've probably seen one. Usually green or red, these kamado-style grills are made with a super thick ceramic to insulate and hold heat in for grilling or smoking. The design and technique create a more consistent internal temp and burn less fuel which saves money. The tabletop Joe Jr. from Kamado Joe is perfect for tailgating, fishing trips or other summer get-togethers. It's smaller than the original, but this version is more affordable at just under $400. If you order from BBQ Guys, you'll get a free $80 accessory package with a grate gripper, ash tool and a heat deflector.
Best Charcoal Grill for Camping
We're already big fans of the Biolite Firepit+ for summer s'mores because its vented design nearly eliminates all annoying campfire smoke, but this portable pit also doubles as a portable charcoal grill making it a great option for camping or RVing. And Biolite now makes grill accessories for the Firepit+ including a pre-seasoned cast iron pan that fits perfectly on top of the grill.